Whether it’s the balmy, sub-tropical climate, slew of sophisticated new boutique hotels and dining precincts, or its proximity to scenic sites boasting natural beauty – or perhaps the alluring combination of all three – Brisbane is beckoning a growing number of visitors to its sunlit stretch of south-east Queensland.
Over the past few years, the capital of the Sunshine State has experienced an exciting revitalisation. Riverfront dining spots, laneways lined with independent stores and cafes, world-class art galleries and architecturally impressive hotels have breathed new life into the River City – placing it firmly on the map for those vacationing across Australia. Better yet, a short road trip from Brisbane’s centre reveals charismatic towns, seaside escapes, and a breathtaking hinterland awaiting discovery.
Brisbane’s restaurant revival
With its warm weather ideal for year-round al fresco dining, the northern capital of Brisbane (Meanjin), on Turrbal and Jagera land, has seen many picturesque outdoor dining spots open in recent years. From the lively riverfront precinct Howard Smith Wharves – where you’ll find the likes of breezy Greca restaurant – to Fish Lane in South Brisbane – where leafy Southside Restaurant resides – the city’s food scene is not only thriving but growing at a rapid pace. And it seems its residents have a robust appetite for this blossoming culinary landscape.
Fortitude Valley’s James Street has been a long-time favoured destination for those seeking refined eateries and sleek bars. Now, the neighbourhood has welcomed the striking Calile Hotel, bringing its in-house, poolside Greek restaurant Hellenika to town and a cluster of travel-worthy venues luring in connoisseurs from near and far.
Among the jewels in James Street’s gastronomic crown are Bianca, a vibrant Italian trattoria with a lengthy wine list and design-savvy space, and Agnes, a smoke-scented warehouse restaurant that brings fire-cooking to the fore.
Of a morning, Agnes’s sibling venue, Agnes Bakery attracts queues of eager patrons in pursuit of flaky pastries. Around the corner from James Street is City Winery Brisbane, the city’s first urban micro-winery (and restaurant) where delicious drops are made and poured – and nearby a budding collection of local breweries produce ales befitting golden afternoons in Newstead.
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Architecturally inspiring Brisbane accommodation
Those visiting the city can take their pick from a throng of beautifully designed hotels dappled around the winding river.
While The Calile Hotel may be a popular choice, and with good reason – local architects Richards and Spence have created an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece – a short stroll away lands wanderers at the Crystalbrook Vincent, a five-star, arts-centric hotel built into the cliffs beneath the Story Bridge at Howard Smith Wharves.
Nearby is The Inchcolm by Ovolo, where a cabinet of curiosities, an apothecary-themed bar and well-dressed rooms are housed in a neo-Georgian building. Across town and overlooking the river is W Brisbane, which is home to Three Blue Ducks in-house dining. And, bordering South Brisbane’s verdant parklands is the grand Emporium Hotel South Bank with suites (and an inviting pool) that boasts some of the best vistas in town.
Explore more of Brisbane’s accommodation.
Brisbane’s Galleries and Art Precincts
By day, the city’s cultural venues come alive with the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) leading the charge.
Flanked by the renowned Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and neighbouring the independent galleries of South Brisbane and artistically ambitious West End – including Onespace Gallery and Birrunga Gallery – GOMA puts visitors in the centre of Brisbane’s arts scene. And, across the river, Museum of Brisbane presents a further deep dive into the city’s evolving culture and its people.
Come sunset, live music, and theatre reigns supreme and performances take place across Brisbane’s inner-city pockets – from Fortitude Valley’s eclectic live music venues and theatre spaces to West End’s narrow bars, to South Brisbane’s premier Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and New Farm’s Brisbane Powerhouse.
The new coastal cool
A 20-minute drive south of Brisbane’s centre lands travellers in a seaside area that feels a world away.
Brisbane’s Bayside, encompassing the coastal town of Manly, is a breath of fresh air and an idyllic half-day trip for relaxing by the water. Manly Boathouse has become a must-book for leisurely seafood-centric meals in style by the sea, or pastries and coffee to accompany breezy walks along the bay. Nearby eateries including newcomer restaurant The Arsonist, cafe Groundhog Social, and watering holes Shucks Bar and Tide on the Jetty, draw locals and visitors to the region for a touch of shoreline escapism.
Or, take a 75-minute catamaran cruise from Brisbane to Moreton Island, where the bay’s mesmerising turquoise hues and sunset cocktails at Tangalooma Island Resort make for a scenic island getaway or a beautiful day drip as part of a River to Bay tour.
Be it a day trip or a country escape, The Scenic Rim region – a veritable food bowl set amid a patchwork of sprawling countryside – offers the hallmarks of a reviving, fresh-air-filled holiday. Those making a night (or a few) of it, can glamp among the rainforest of Lamington National Park at Nightfall Camp and sit and wonder at the tranquillity at Wander at the Overflow 1895 – where five secluded, luxury pods hide among the mountains.
Gourmands can book an escape to the country at Tommerup’s Dairy Farm and Farm Stay and visit Summer Land Camel Farm as part of a Local Taste Discoveries tour, of which there are many to choose. Perhaps the ultimate wine-lover’s retreat exists at Oceanview Estates, where you can stay in the Winemakers Cottage, just 50 metres from the estate’s winery and restaurant. And for restless, nature-loving travellers, the Spicers Retreat’s 50-kilometre-long Scenic Rim Trail gives walkers a taste of adventure, albeit in comfortable, guided style.
Of course, the not-so-active holidaymakers among us can opt to stay at Spicers Hidden Vale – complete with its farm-to-fork dining destination, Homage Restaurant.
Those who really want to see it all can take in the expansive valleys, mountains, and countryside below in a hot air balloon with Floating Images. And yet, those staying in Brisbane need not miss out on a memorable sky-high experience either – take to the skies in a helicopter with Vantage Brisbane and gain a bird’s-eye view over this ever-growing metropolis and its winding namesake river.